We report structural and functional analyses of the Bradyrhizobium japonicum fixGHIS genes, which map immediately downstream of the fixNOQP operon for the symbiotically essential cbb3-type heme-copper oxidase complex. Expression of fixGHIS, like that of fixNOQP, is strongly induced in cells grown microaerobically or anaerobically. A fixGHI deletion led to the same prominent phenotypes as those known from a fixNOQP deletion: defective symbiotic nitrogen fixation (Fix-) and decreased cytochrome oxidase activity in cells grown under oxygen deprivation. Only traces, if any, of cytochrome cbb3 subunits were present in membranes isolated from the delta fixGHI strain, as revealed by Western blot analysis with subunit-specific antibodies. This effect was not due to lack of fixNOQP transcription. The results suggested a critical involvement of the fixGHIS gene products in the assembly and/or stability of the cbb3-type heme-copper oxidase. On the basis of sequence similarities between the FixI protein and a Cu-transporting P-type ATPase (CopA) of Enterococcus hirae, and between FixG and a membrane-bound oxidoreductase (RdxA) of Rhodobacter sphaeroides, we postulate that a membrane-bound FixGHIS complex might play a role in uptake and metabolism of copper required for the cbb3-type heme-copper oxidase.